Chanting

As Kindred Spirits

As Kindred Spirits

As Kindred Spirits performing at Yoga Mala DC

Empty rooms become a churning mass of bodies; dancing feet, flashing eyes, hands striking two-headed mrdanga drums. The pure energy of soul-satisfying vibrations fill your chest as you chant ancient mantras. Magical instruments fill your ears. Rhythms soothe your body. A typical suburban neighborhood transforms into the most beautiful place in creation, where you are eternally youthful, beautiful and full of bliss. Every word is a song and every step is a dance.

Vrinda Dances at the Yoga Mala Performance

This is the epicenter of the American kirtan sub-culture. Hiding in plain sight in run-of-the-mill locations, behind curtains in the basement of your seemingly average neighbor, this vibrant spiritual and musical subculture thrives.

The As Kindred Spirits - Nectar of Devotion Album

The Cover of Nectar of Devotion by As Kindred Spirits

This unique recording of World Music perfectly captures the uplifting and energetic atmosphere in which As Kindred Spirits crafts their music. Ancient Indian songs of devotion, with rich ethnic melodies are infused with fresh, Western grooves and modalities, creating tracks that are both hip and inspired.

The music of As Kindred Spirits is like a lotus growing from the mud of American materialism. We are the honeybees swarming to drink the nectar of this flower.

Purchase the album at our store!

Spinning cloth at the Yoga Mala Concert

As Kindred Spirits features Gaura Vani and Sandeep Mody along with many of their closest friends, in this fresh take on sacred Indian music. Allow this album to place you in direct contact with the Divine through the universal language of music.

Purchase the Nectar of Devotion CD at Krishna.com

Movin’ the Crowd

Quitting smoking, feeling low

Question: 
I'd like to stop smoking, and to spend my online time developing Krishna consciousness, but I'm not sure where to start. What books do you recommend? How does one become inspired to chant? I'd like to serve Krishna, but I feel so low that I wonder whether He would accept me.


Our Answer:
Have you tried chanting Hare Krishna? Some people get enough spiritual strength simply by doing that to stop smoking.
If you follow the links on the "About Krishna" pages on Krishna.com, that will help you get a better understanding of Krishna consciousness. You should also read Bhagavad-gita at some point, but Science of Self-Realization and Isopanisad may be easier to begin with.

Two ways to become inspired to chant are 1) Force yourself to chant every day; you'll gradually become purified and start to like it. 2) Find some way to serve and glorify devotees who like to chant. If there's a Hare Krishna temple near you you can go there when you have free time, and ask what you can do to help.

Krishna is willing to accept people who never stop trying to attain His mercy, no matter what their previous position, as we are all His children.

Benefits of chanting and going back to Godhead

Question: 
What are the benefits of chanting—to go back to Godhead? To control our senses? Why should anyone want to go back to Godhead?


Our Answer:
Chanting has many benefits. Our minds become purified so we can understand our spiritual nature. Right now we identify ourselves with our bodies and minds and thus we're often in pain or perplexity. When we realize our spiritual nature through chanting, we will no longer identify with these.

Both controlling the senses and going back to Godhead can be accomplished by chanting. Krishna likes when we call His names with sincerity, and since He's the Lord of all benedictions, all spiritual and material perfections are possible for one who chants.

One big difference between here (this material world) and going back to Godhead (the spiritual world) is that in the spiritual world there's no inconvenience of death, which tears us away from our friends, family, and property and forces us to start from square one in our next life.

Too busy to chant

Question: 
Will Krishna accept me even if I'm too busy to chant sixteen rounds? I heard that Krishna is very merciful and loves his devotees even if they don't chant. Does singing bhajans count as japa? Can I develop love for Krishna by some other means than chanting?


Our Answer:

If you really want to awaken your innate love for Krishna, the most highly recommended practice is to chant His names. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Krishna's most recent incarnation, has demonstrated and recommended this over and over.

Chanting in the association of devotees dedicated to the Lord's service is even more powerful. Chant at least sixteen rounds and build up gradually. Practice perfect attention while chanting as the name is the Lord Himself. Try to chant without the ten kinds of offenses.

You can chant in the shower, you can chant in the car (not as japa, but as kirtan). Opportunities for chanting are everywhere. You can also pray. You can pray for the intelligence to arrange your life so you have time to chant!

The dharma is chanting. Japa is just to make sure you chant enough. The acharyas recommend both. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu did both. If you take rest early, you can rise early and chant japa before anyone gives you anything else to do. Another point is that chanting elevates our consciousness so we don't need to sleep as much. Instead of sleeping eight hours, you can sleep six hours and chant two hours.

Srila Prabhupada, who introduced gave a clue how a busy man in household life might chant sixteen rounds. Chant four before breakfast, four before lunch, four before dinner, and four before taking rest for the evening. He said that if we chanted sixteen rounds daily and tried to avoid the offenses in chanting that by the end of our lives we would become pure enough to be eligible to return to the spiritual world.

Lord Krishna came all the way from the spiritual world to demonstrate, as Lord Chaitanya, how to develop love of Krishna by chanting the holy name. Why then are you so attached to finding excuses not to do it?

Chanting and mental disturbance

Question: 
My mind is disturbed even though I try my best to chant Hare Krishna. How constantly should I keep hearing the mantra?


Our Answer:

When chanting Hare Krishna we practice neglecting the mind and paying attention to the sound of the holy names. It doesn't matter what crazy ideas the mind comes up with. Our concern is just to hear the sound vibration of every syllable of the Hare Krishna mantra. When we notice that we're paying attention to the mind and not the mantra, then we bring the mind back to the mantra.

Because we have paid close attention and obediently served our mind for as many as millions of births, the difficulty of ignoring it and focusing on the sound of the mantra should not be surprising. But just as a mother patiently keeps her children from causing trouble—although they do the same stupid things again and again—we must patiently control our minds.

It's important to always try to control the mind by hearing the sound of the mantra attentively. In the course of time, we will improve at it. Krishna will appreciate our efforts and give mercy in the course of time.

As long as we're chanting, we should be hearing. Try to focus on one mantra at a time, and then part of the mantra at a time, and then a smaller part. Then you won't have time to meditate on the distracting thoughts of the mind and you will become purified by hearing the mantra.

First, make a determination to do nothing else except focus on the mantra for this period of time. Then focus on the sound of one mantra at a time, and go on to the next. Don't lament about the past or dream about the future, just listen to the sound of the mantra, whether you like it or not, because it is Krishna's desire we chant His name in this age. Set a fixed number of rounds to chant and then gradually increase.

Differences between meditation and bhakti

Question: 
What is the difference between Dhyana (meditational yoga) and Bhakti-yoga?


Our Answer:

Dhyana, meditation, is just one way to practice bhakti, devotional service to the Supreme Person.

Hearing about Vishnu (or His incarnations), chanting about Them, remembering Them (dhyana), offering prayers, worshipping, etc. are all different practices of bhakti, devotional service.

Meditation on the Lord is one way; however, in this age of Kali, the chanting of the holy name is considered to be a much better alternative.

In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna explains to Arjuna the whole process of meditation, especially in the sixth chapter. He concludes the chapter by saying that of all yogis, the one who is always thinking of Krishna and worshiping Him with great faith is the highest of all. The most direct and practical means of thinking of Krishna in the current day and age is to chant Hare Krishna.

Ten Offenses to be Avoided While Chanting Hare Krishna

There are ten main offenses that must be avoided by those who wish to quickly achieve the desired success of chanting. These are mentioned in the Padma Purana, Brahma-khanda, and are recited by devotees all over the world each morning before they begin chanting. These offenses are mentioned in Srimad-Bhagavatam, 3.15.25, Purport:

"It may be noted that there are ten offenses we should avoid.

The first offense is to decry persons who try in their lives to broadcast the glories of the Lord. People must be educated in understanding the glories of the Supreme; therefore the devotees who engage in preaching the glories of the Lord are never to be decried. It is the greatest offense.

Furthermore, the holy name of Vishnu is the most auspicious name, and His pastimes are also nondifferent from the holy name of the Lord. There are many foolish persons who say that one can chant Hare Krishna or chant the name of Kali or Durga or Shiva because they are all the same. If one thinks that the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the names and activities of the demigods are on the same level, or if one accepts the holy name of Vishnu to be a material sound vibration; that is also an offense.

The third offense is to think of the spiritual master who spreads the glories of the Lord as an ordinary human being.

The fourth offense is to consider the Vedic literatures, such as the Puranas or other transcendentally revealed scriptures, to be ordinary books of knowledge.

The fifth offense is to think that devotees have given artificial importance to the holy name of God. The actual fact is that the Lord is nondifferent from His name. The highest realization of spiritual value is to chant the holy name of God, as prescribed for the age—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

The sixth offense is to give some interpretation on the holy name of God.

The seventh offense is to act sinfully on the strength of chanting the holy name of God. It is understood that one can be freed from all sinful reaction simply by chanting the holy name of God, but if one thinks that he is therefore at liberty to commit all kinds of sinful acts, that is a symptom of offense.

The eighth offense is to equate the chanting of Hare Krishna with other spiritual activities, such as meditation, austerity, penance or sacrifice. They cannot be equated at any level.

The ninth offense is to specifically glorify the importance of the holy name before persons who have no interest.

The tenth offense is to be attached to the misconception of possessing something, or to accept the body as one's self, while executing the process of spiritual cultivation."

The Padma Purana goes on to say that it is also an offense to be inattentive while chanting. Chanting while doing anything else is not recommended. When the mind wanders from hearing the mantra, we should bring it back. This takes patience, because it is the nature of the mind to wander.

Why is Kirtan so Important, and how can I do it?

Complexity: 
Easy

from the Perfection of Yoga
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

In India there are sacred places where yogis go to meditate in solitude, as prescribed in Bhagavad-gita.

Traditionally, yoga cannot be executed in a public place, but insofar as kirtan—mantra-yoga, or the yoga of chanting the Hare Krishna mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—is concerned, the more people present, the better.

When Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was performing kirtan in India some five hundred years ago, He organized in each group sixteen people to lead the chanting, and thousands of people chanted with them.

This participation in kirtan, in the public chanting of the names and glories of God, is very possible and is actually easy in this age; but as far as the meditational process of yoga is concerned, that is very difficult.

It is specifically stated in Bhagavad-gita that to perform meditational yoga one should go to a secluded and holy place. In other words, it is necessary to leave home. In this age of overpopulation it is not always possible to find a secluded place, but this is not necessary in bhakti-yoga.

In the bhakti-yoga system there are nine different processes: hearing, chanting, remembering, serving, worshiping the Deity in the temple, praying, carrying out orders, serving Krishna as a friend and sacrificing for Him.

Out of these, sravanam kirtanam, hearing and chanting, are considered the most important.

At a public kirtan one person can chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, while a group listens, and at the end of the mantra, the group can respond, and in this way there is a reciprocation of hearing and chanting.

This can easily be performed in one’s own home, with a small group of friends or with many people in a large public place.

One may attempt to practice meditational yoga in a large city or in a society, but one must understand that this is one’s own concoction and is not the method recommended in Bhagavad-gita.

-an excerpt from The Perfection of Yoga, an edited series of lectures on the sixth chapter of Bhagavad-gita As It Is.

“You Can Pronounce Krishna In Any Way”

Complexity: 
Easy

— a conversation between Prabhupada and Allen Ginsberg.

Does true spirituality require a specific hairstyle, clothing style, vocabulary, and a diet of curried vegetables?

Allen Ginsberg: Your Divine Grace, my original question was, Is the complicated ritual and the Sanskrit language—are they going to keep people from accepting what you’re giving.

Srila Prabhupada: No, no. We are translating, presenting everything in the English language. All our books are being published in English. Our magazine is in English.

Allen Ginsberg: But the question is, Is the mode of life that you are proposing adaptable to many, many, many people?

Srila Prabhupada: To that I say that this Krishna culture is not something that many, many people can immediately accept.

Allen Ginsberg: Yeah. But there is a thirst felt by many, many people for an alternative answer, for a better alternative system.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So if people are actually thirsty—if they are actually thirsty—then they can adopt this system given by the Supreme Lord. What is the difficulty there? There is no difficulty. So many American boys and girls have already adopted it, and they are not feeling any difficulty. They are feeling relief. In what respect is chanting Hare Krishna difficult? You are chanting.

Allen Ginsberg: Yes.

Srila Prabhupada: It is all in Sanskrit. What difficulty are you feeling?

Allen Ginsberg: I don’t feel too much difficulty, except aesthetically I do feel a difficulty. Yes, there is. The difficulty I feel is that there should be some flower of the American language to communicate in.

Srila Prabhupada: Therefore, we are seeking your help.

Allen Ginsberg: Hm. Well, I haven’t found another way. I still just stay chanting Hare Krishna.

Srila Prabhupada: That is also my view. I have come to America with this view: that America is at the summit of material civilization—they are not poverty- stricken, you see?—and yet they are seeking after something. Therefore, I have come to offer, “You take this. You’ll be happy.” That is my mission.

And if the Americans take this Krishna consciousness seriously, then all other countries will take it, because America is leading at the present moment. So exalted persons like you should try to understand. What is the difficulty? There is no difficulty. Chanting Hare Krishna—anyone can chant. Even the little child is chanting. So, you were asking, How can this mode of living attract many people?

Allen Ginsberg: Well, mere chanting without the practice of a philosophy …

Srila Prabhupada: Philosophy is here. We are teaching Bhagavad-gita. We are talking on Bhagavata philosophy. We are talking on Lord Sri Krishna Caitanya’s philosophy.

Allen Ginsberg: And you have a daily ritual. So my question is this: Is the Caitanya-Krishna ritual, as you have it here in this house and in the other ashrams—is this something that a large mass of people can enter into?

Srila Prabhupada: In time, yes. Why not?

Allen Ginsberg: In America?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. This we have already seen. Virtually all my students are Americans. And Krishna consciousness is spreading.

Allen Ginsberg: Yes, but what it requires is an adaptation to Indian dress and …

Srila Prabhupada: That is not very important.

Allen Ginsberg: And an adaptation to Indian food.

Srila Prabhupada: No, no. Indian food—it is not Indian food. Are you not eating fruits?

Allen Ginsberg: Yes, yes.

Srila Prabhupada: Then that is Indian food? Do you mean to say it is Indian food?

Allen Ginsberg: Well, the curried vegetable dishes.

Srila Prabhupada: Vegetables you may simply steam, if you like. That doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether you take our specific taste. No. That is not the program, that to become Krishna conscious you have to change your taste. No. We say what Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita. Patram pushpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati: “Anyone who offers Me with devotion these vegetables, fruits, flowers, milk—I accept that.” So we are determined to satisfy Krishna, and therefore we are selecting foodstuffs from these groups.

And these foodstuffs you are already accepting. Don’t you take vegetables? Don’t you take fruits? Don’t you take grains? So where is the new item? Now, insofar as cooking is concerned, you can cook according to your own taste. But the food groups must be these. Not flesh. Because Krishna does not say, “Offer Me flesh.”

This, very simply, is our program. And you are already eating grains, vegetables, and fruits, and you are drinking milk. So where is the difference? I don’t find any difference.

Allen Ginsberg: Well, I suppose not. You could say there is no difference, because the food is basically the same materially. It’s just a question of the style.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. My style and your style may be different. That’s all right. In any event, to maintain health and keep body and soul together, you require eating, you require sleeping, you require mating, you require defending. We don’t say that you don’t do this.

Arjuna wanted to be nonviolent and not engage in defending: “Oh, what is the use of fighting?”

Krishna said, “No. It is required. You should.” Defending is part of this Krishna culture. So where is the difference? There is no difference. Simply we are adjusting things so that you may become truly happy. Any intelligent man will accept this cultural idea. We are not prohibiting things, but rather, we are adjusting things. So there is no difficulty. Intelligent persons like you should try to understand and take this idea and distribute it, because your country is in want of this.

Allen Ginsberg: But there is a limit to how much the pronunciation of Krishna will spread, I think. There’s a limit.

Srila Prabhupada: Hmm. No limit. You can pronounce Krishna in any way. For instance, K-r-i-s-h-n-a. You can pronounce Krishna in any way. Niyamitah smarane na kalah. No hard and fast rules, no limits.

Allen Ginsberg: The limit is people’s prejudice.

Srila Prabhupada: We don’t say, “Why are you chanting Krishna like this?” We never say that. We simply say, “Please try to chant Krishna.”

Allen Ginsberg: Or let us say there would be a limit until the word Krishna became as common in English as any other English word.

Srila Prabhupada: It is already in the dictionary. In all dictionaries you will find Krishna. What more do you want?

Allen Ginsberg: Something that will not disturb truck drivers.

Disciple: They can say Christ.They can say Krishna. It is the same.

Allen Ginsberg: True. But they don’t say Christ.[Laughs.]

Srila Prabhupada: I have read one book, the Aquarian Gospel, wherein it is explained that Krist means love. Christ means love. And Krishna also means love. So from Krishna this word Krist has come. And in India sometimes people say Kristha. Instead of Krishna, they say Kristha.And in various regions has come the word Kestha. Generally, instead of pronouncing very precisely Krishna, if somebody’s name is Krishnacandra, they say, “Hey, Kesthara.”

Allen Ginsberg: Where is this?

Srila Prabhupada: In India everywhere. Kestha. So Kestha, Christ, Krist, Kristha, or Krishna—they’re in the same group. Pronouncing Krishna is not difficult.

Hare Krishna Maha-Mantra

Complexity: 
Easy

This transcendental vibration, by chanting of:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

...is the sublime method for reviving our Krishna consciousness.

As living spiritual souls we are all originally Krishna conscious entities, but due to our association with matter from time immemorial, our consciousness is now polluted by material atmosphere. In this polluted concept of life, we are all trying to exploit the resources of material nature, but actually we are becoming more and more entangled in her complexities. This illusion is called maya, or hard struggle for existence for winning over the stringent laws of material nature. This illusory struggle against the material nature can at once be stopped by revival of our Krishna consciousness.

Krishna consciousness is not an artificial imposition on the mind. This consciousness is the original energy of the living entity. When we hear the transcendental vibration, this consciousness is revived and the process is recommended by authorities for this age. By practical experience also, we can perceive that by chanting this maha-mantra, or the great chanting for deliverance, one can at once feel transcendental ecstasy from the spiritual stratum.

When one is factually on the plane of spiritual understanding, surpassing the stages of sense, mind and intelligence, one is situated on the transcendental plane. This chanting of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare is directly enacted from the spiritual platform, surpassing all lower status of consciousness, namely sensual, mental, and intellectual.

There is no need of understanding the language of the mantra, nor is there any need of mental speculation, nor any intellectual adjustment for chanting this maha-mantra. It springs automatically from the spiritual platform, and as such, anyone can take part in this transcendental sound vibration without any previous qualification and dance in ecstasy. We have seen it practically. Even a child can take part in the chanting, or even a dog can take part in it.

This chanting should be heard from the lips of a pure devotee of the Lord so that immediate effect can be achieved. As far as possible, chanting from the lips of a non-devotee should be avoided, as much as milk touched by the lips of a serpent causes poisonous effect.

The word Hara is a form of addressing the energy of the Lord. Both Krishna and Rama are forms of addressing directly the Lord and they mean, "the highest pleasure eternal." Hara is the supreme pleasure potency of the Lord. This potency, when addressed as Hare, helps us in reaching the Supreme Lord.

The material energy, called maya, is also one of the multi-potencies of the Lord, as much as we are also marginal potency of the Lord. The living entities are described as superior energy than matter. When the superior energy is in contact with the inferior energy, it becomes an incompatible situation. But when the supreme marginal potency is in contact with the spiritual potency, Hara, it becomes the happy, normal condition of the living entity.

The three words, namely Hara, Krishna, and Rama, are transcendental seeds of the maha-mantra, and the chanting is a spiritual call for the Lord and His internal energy Hara for giving protect the conditioned soul. This chanting is exactly like the genuine cry of a child for its mother. Mother Hara helps the devotee achieve the grace of the Supreme Father, Hari or Krishna, and the Lord reveals Himself to the devotee who chants this mantra sincerely.

Therefore no other means of spiritual realization is as effective in this age of quarrel and hypocrisy as the chanting of the maha-mantra:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare,
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

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